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The Troops Are US

By Remy Benoit

   I was deeply disturbed reading the article linked to below this morning.

   I do not, in any way, believe that this reporting reflects on  the character of the people of this state. This incident could have taken place anywhere. Probably has; probably will.
   Many of you who are Veterans of the Vietnam War have had this kind of experience. Although the insult was decades ago, I know from what you tell me, the pain is fresh.
   This was an act of a handful of young people.  
   Nevertheless, age does not excuse this kind of behavior.
   I am an absolute adovocate of the right of free speech.
   It is one of the rights our troops are on the battlefield for today.
   You may be pro this war; you may be anti this war, or, indeed, war in general.

   However, the members of our Armed Forces are us; our flesh, our blood.  While you demonstrate, protest, pro or con, it is their lives that are on the line.
   War is not a game. It is not about demonstrators scoring points for their side.  It is about fear, terror, death; and for those who survive, for those who come home forever changed, it is until their last breath a living, visceral thing.

   Free speech is your right, your inalienable right, but abuse of members of the military is not part of that right.

   It pains me greatly that so many of our young people know so very little about the engagement in Vietnam; about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, about Desert Storm Syndrome, the Forgotten War in Korea, the memories of those who fought World War II. They  need to be taught history, real history, not feel good history. Perhaps if there were taught that history is about real people with real feelings, not just little black marks on a page, they would begin to think before they misdirected their sentiments onto those who protect their right to voice their positions.

   Perhaps this can be one of the legacies handed down by our experience in Vietnam; think before you engage your right to free speech. Abuse is not part of that right. As parents, we must teach our children well.

   Use your rights of dissent, franchise, public gathering wisely and well. Use it with humanity and with dignity. And remember, what goes around truly does come around.

Protesters Throw Stones at National Guardsman.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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